Occasionally, when otherwise unoccupied, I find myself busy for a prolonged stretch. It is no great expanse of time, merely the full measure of a work day, from early in the morning until the sun has set. Being mostly unemployed, these days are never single purpose, and the varied nature of them affects my mood. On good ones, like today, they start with interviews with distant companies, conducted before the household has woken. I sit in the office, grateful for the view of Kowloon, and talk to engineers on products I am curious about, am hopeful for. After a few hours I emerge to make tea or say goodbye to the family, depending on the work day.
The next calls are ones where I talk less, but add more value, consulting calls with factories, with American engineers at the end of their days and teams closer to me at the start of theirs. These are the kind of calls I am at home in, translating or clarifying where needed, managing the structure and shape of the plan, and resolving minor issues with both sides for the hour following. These are the kind of calls that keep me sane, when mostly unemployed. They keep me connected to factories, to what is happening with China’s lockdowns and American labor shortages, and to where the distributed teams in the US are located. It’s a hard way to do hardware, fully remote and part time, but it’s rewarding, and the people are worth the contact hours. Many of them I’m sure I’ll work with again. Some I already have.
After these hours I rise and procure coffee, wandering down stairs to Fineprint to say hello to neighbors, the regular crowd. It’s a comfortable environment, the kind of experience central to our love for Hong Kong, for Tai Hang. Our street features a dozen restaurants, our neighborhood roughly thirty, and a fifteen minute walk’s radius an easy hundred. There is always somewhere to go, something to eat, someone to see. The liveliness of this kind of environment balances my work-partially-from-home situation perfectly. I can not imagine doing without, and worry some times about those on calls, so clearly in suburban locations, so clearly in a single family home with nothing to walk to. I worry about Americans.
I worry too about my Chinese friends, about those in “closed loop” work environments that, with the euphemism discarded, means “sleeping at work”. I worry about the sustainability of Covid Zero when it takes away everything but the ability to work. I hope we survive this, collectively. I hope my project manager, who has spent fifty three days in solitary quarantine in twenty twenty two, survives this. We don’t seem to have a choice.